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“The Social Network” #1 on Sight and Sound’s Top Ten

November 28, 2010 1 comment

I won’t go into too much depth here, sufficed to say that I am THRILLED to announce that the “The Social Network” has brought home its first big title of the year: the top spot on the world-renowned magazine Sight and Sound’s list of the best films of the year. Here is the list:

1. “The Social Network” (David Fincher)
2. “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
3. “Another Year” (Mike Leigh)
4. “Carlos” (Olivier Assayas)
5. “The Arbor” (Clio Barnard)
6. “Winter’s Bone” (Debra Granik)
6. (tied) “I Am Love” (Luca Guadagnino)
8. “The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu” (Andrei Ujica)
8. (tied) “Film Socialisme” (Jean-Luc Godard)
8. (tied) “Nostalgia for the Light” (Patricio Guzman)
8. (tied) “Poetry” (Lee Chang-dong)
8. (tied) “A Prophet” (Jacques Audiard)

Sight and Sound, a British magazine released by the BFI, is one of the longest running film publications. It’s lists of films and directors are considered to be some of the most prestigious and genuine. This year, they have chosen David Fincher’s “The Social Network” to join the ranks of many other classic films that have earned that regard. Previous winners include:

2005: Brokeback Mountain

2006: Cache

2007: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

2008: Hunger

2009: A Prophet

It is the first American film to top this list in the last 6 years, even though “The Hurt Locker” and “There Will Be Blood” both recently came in at number two, respectively. This is a big win for David Fincher’s masterpiece and will hopefully be the beginning of a long string of victories. Cheers.

(Note: I don’t have a link to the list, for it is only available in publication, as of now. However, their website should have it within the next week)

If Other Directors Made “The Social Network”

November 17, 2010 Leave a comment

This is pretty funny. I’m just happy that “The Social Network” has some staying power in back of people’s minds and is effectively seeping into the culture. Hopefully that keeps up through Oscar season.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

“The Social Network” Review

October 10, 2010 1 comment

So, it’s now been over a week since I saw an early screening of David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin’s “The Social Network,” and I’m still not sure that I have all of my thoughts collected. It may not be able to until after a second viewing later this week that I can firmly put together a consensus. One thing is for sure, however, that I don’t need another second to figure out: this film is a quarter of a step away from being an absolute cinematic masterpiece.

Everyone obviously knows the story by now. It tells the semi-biographic tale of Mark Zuckerberg and his rise to wealth and fame as he shepherds Facebook through its developmental phase. However, in the process, he breaks enough laws to be saddled with hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits and manages to alienate and betray his best friend in the world.

The real beauty of “The Social Network” is that there really isn’t much wrong with it…at all. I can go on forever about every good aspect of this film, and I’m about to, but it’s important to make that notion clear, right off the bat. This is practically as good as it gets.

It’s important to confess up front that, yes, I am a huge fan of Aaron Sorkin. In fact, I worship the very ground that he walks on. In my opinion, “The West Wing” is the greatest show in television history and will never be topped. However, for the sake of this review, all of that goes out the window. This might have well been the first thing Sorkin has ever penned in his life, and it wouldn’t matter. It’s the fact that the man has gone so far outside the parameters of his usual subject matter and still crafted such a stupendous tale that marks this film as such an event.

The script is nearly flawless. The story travels at a mile a minute or more and still manages to capture enough wit, fire and intelligence to leave the competition somewhere in the dust. It seems as though every single line of dialogue was either blisteringly funny or searingly poignant and in the moment. The structure of the screenplay never fails and is balanced perfectly between the present and past. The latter storyline is not told sloppily through flashbacks, but rather on an even keel with its storytelling platform. The best facet of the script, however, is its use of characters. Every single person in the film is completely fleshed out, from Zuckerberg himself to the bit parts of lawyers and students. Everyone has just enough screentime, and in the end, there are no questions left unanswered.

David Fincher has no doubt created his masterpiece in this film. His direction dots every “i” and crosses every “t.” He has matured in form and better solidified his craft than perhaps any mainstream director working for the last twenty years. Fincher always understands the tone of the scene set in motion by Sorkin’s writing and blends every moment of realism and theatricality into a single, concise vision. From the Harvard campus to the legal conference room to the ground floor of Facebook’s business offices, the film is alive and constantly bustling with rhythm and energy. If the Academy does not give Fincher his due and proper this year, they are going to have a lot to make up for.

The cast is stellar…the whole ensemble…and, yes, that includes Justin Timberlake. Believe it or not, Timberlake is very well cast as hotshot Sean Parker, putting up a facade of false integrity and style which really shields the weakness of his true being. The truly breakout role in the film, however, is Andrew Garfield. Garfield very recently gave a solid turn in “Never Let Me Go,” but here, he shined. He is the heart of the film, the epitome  of innocence not lost, but rather destroyed.  In a way, it’s a coming-of age performance, for his boyish qualities are slowly deteriorated into manhood as Zuckerberg’s manipulation of him begins to graduate.

However, if Garfield provides the sweet and innocent side of “The Social Network,” then Eisenberg is the yang to his ying. Jesse Eisenberg doesn’t just do a good job of embodying all of the little facets and details that make his character believable, but knocks it completely out of the park, and therefore, the movie as well. He owns the screen and the viewer’s attention in the same way that someone the caliber of Heath Ledger did, or even some of his predecessors like Tom Hanks or Daniel Day Lewis. Eisenberg is not a passenger in this film, he is driving it, full speed. I would be appalled if he is not on Oscar’s shortlist at the end of the year, and just for a nom, but the win, as well.

The film has a fantastic sense of its technical values. The camerawork, shot on the digital RED One, uses some very impressive color schemes and brilliant compositions. David Fincher has recently become a huge promoter of digital cinematography and here he truly demonstrates how good it can be. The sound design and editing are also outstanding, and are subtle enough to probably go overlooked by many. Some of the montages created by Kirk Baxter and Angus Hall help maintain a great pace for the story, and are magnificently cut to Trent Reznor’s unorthodox, yet effective score.

When the film opened the New York Film Festival over the summer, the event’s director Richard Pena compared the cinematic pairing of Fincher and Sorkin to that of Sidney Lumet and Paddy Chayefsky, the makers of the ironically titled classic “Network.” I am wholeheartedly inclined to agree. These two artists have stepped out of their ordinary circles and come together to compose not only a great film, but one that speaks for the times and addresses a much larger social issue. In certain ways, I cannot argue with the critics who would go as far as to point out the similarities to “Citizen Kane.” And before I get burned at the stake, I obviously don’t mean in regards to “Kane”‘s groundbreaking, game-changing technical achievements, but thematically, they are quite similar. Featured is a man who strives to create something bigger than life, and in the process, destroys the lives of those who love him and helped him get to the top. Many films may have this story, but not many pull it off in the same fashion and bravado as these two features.

One facet that “The Social Network” seems to achieve over “Kane” is the merging of plot and the character until they’re one of the same. Zuckerberg’s rise to power through the massive-connection machine that is Facebook is coupled with his own burning need to be accepted. And yet as the site grows bigger and faster, the more alienated from the rest of the world Mark becomes. The film is a truly masterful insight into the ironies and tragedies of interpersonal communication and relationships in a technologically advanced world. It seemingly defines the exciting, yet sad truths of the previous decade and sets the bar for filmmaking quality for the new one.

GRADES:           A           * * * * * / * * * * *           9.8 / 10.0

“Never Let Me Go” Review

October 3, 2010 1 comment

Many a film has been made in the past about dystopian societies, perfect worlds where nothing bad ever happens. Tales of people lucky enough to live forever in harmony with themselves and each other. Hardly ever are there stories of the unlucky ones, those who are locked out in the cold. People who not only never get to experience the sweet life, but are literally thrown in the fire for civilization’s expense. This is one such story.

“Never Let Me Go” is the sophomore effort of music-video director Mark Romanek, the creator of the very sub-par thriller “One Hour Photo” starring Robin Williams. It would seem that he had bitten off more than he could chew by helming the adaptation of what Time Magazine called the best novel of the decade. However, the inevitable disappointment never occurred. The film excels on a number of different levels.

It is set in the backdrop of a reality in which a breakthrough medical miracle provides a cure for a great number of human illnesses, allowing people to live longer and happier lives. This world, however, comes at the cost of a very small fraction of the population, individuals who are genetically cloned, raised healthily behind closed doors and eventually harvested for their vital organs.

Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield play three of these unfortunate souls, Kathy, Ruth and Tommy (names ordered respectively). While children, given a privileged upbringing at the pleasant Hillsham Academy, they are kept completely sheltered from the rest of the world. It is here that the mousy Kathy develops a crush on Tommy, who is outcasted from the other boys. However, her emotions are stifled when her best friend Ruth moves in and steals Tommy out from under her nose. It is around this time when, from a leak in the faculty, the children learn the reason of their existence and perhaps realize how short life is…literally.

As they grow older, they begin to move out and experience a bit more of the real world. They also discover that for select couples that graduate from Hillsham and can prove their love for each other, a deferral could be available from the point at which they must begin their “donations.” Now, the love triangle that began years ago becomes less romantic and more vital for survival as the countdown to their lives’ completion continues to tick down.

All around, the film is an honorable achievement. The first thing that is noticed is not only the subtle, yet fantastic acting, but the wonderful casting of the three leads, both as adults and children. Each individual knows their character’s limits and boundaries and meticulously stays within them. Romanek also works from a very subdued perspective and never allows the story to become sentimental or melodramatic. In fact, one of the film’s strongest facets is its ability to portray this horrible place in such a matter-of-fact way. The film becomes so much more haunting when treated as a reality that must be faced eventually by the protagonists. Even the sought-after deferrals are only effective for a few years, and then it’s back to square one.

The cinematography, while for the most part dull and fairly uninspired, does lens as gray and bleak a dystopian society has ever seen in its own mirror. However, the truly technical standout in the film is its beautiful score. Always lurking in the background and yet never overpowering the acting or visuals, the music will leave you moved and even a bit shaken. Pay close attention to the haunting strings in use at the bleakest moments of the film and you realize that they are driving the emotional core. While the film is becoming less of an Oscar contender each week, this nomination for Rachel Portman should be assured.

If one qualm could be made of this solid production, it would be a plea for just a bit more of an emotional wallop. Without descending into complete melodrama, more needed to be made by the screenplay of the fact that every one of these kids is doomed. This is a sad story. No one can deny that. And yet as haunting and dreary as it is, the film is never really a tearjerker, and this is one that’s truly allowed to be. Yet even if it won’t make you cry, see this film for what it does make you do: realize that every gift, no matter how amazing and brilliant, comes at a horrible price.

GRADES:         B+         * * * * / * * * * *         8.0 / 10.0